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“It’s fine by me if you don’t wish to speak up. I’ll just ask Mo Li tomorrow.”

“You really want to know that badly? Then let me just tell you about it myself. Honestly, I wouldn’t have mentioned it if you didn’t find out. Because it’s not something to be celebrated,” said Jin Qingyan as he pulled her into his embrace.

An Xiaoning remained silent and listened to what he had to say.

“There’s too much to tell about her, so let’s start off with who she is. I’ll tell you about the rest in detail, in the future.” Jin Qingyan removed his shirt and laid down while canoodling her in his arms. “She’s my sister from another mother. She’s a year younger than me and two years older than Qingyue. My father had her with another woman whose last name was Fang when he was younger. Ever since she passed away, their child had secretly begun living in my house, which Tianze and Mo Li knew about. However, she went missing without a trace when she was 12, and neither of my parents had gone on a search for her. I secretly tried to find her a couple of times, but my efforts were futile. I can’t openly keep that photograph in an album because it makes my mother upset. I can’t allow her to see it,” he explained.

“What’s her name?”

“She never had one. None of us had ever addressed her by a name, not even my parents,” answered Jin Qingyan.

Knowing it was time to stop, An Xiaoning did not probe further and said instead, “This must be your family’s secret.”

“Kind of, not really. Well, you could say so since it’s never been reported in the media, but at the same time, not quite, because all my close friends and family are aware of the matter. My mother said she had caused a huge scene at home, back then.”

“Why do I have a feeling you don’t actually detest that girl, and in fact, you even feel a certain sense of guilt and sympathy towards her…”

“Yeah… she’s innocent. During her time at my house, she was treated worse than a servant. Sometimes, she wasn’t even allowed to have her meals. Tianze and I often snuck her some food to eat.”

“Actually, you should try searching for her now,” An Xiaoning suggested.

“I’ve always been on the search for her, but to no avail. It feels like she just vanished from the face of this earth. It’s been too long.”

You’re right, she ran away from home when she was 12, she should be 23 years old now. So many years have passed.

“Switch off the lights, I’m going to sleep.” She put the book away and closed her eyes after tucking herself under the blanket.

“Remove your mask, lest I get a huge scare when I wake up to go to the washroom in the middle of the night.”

“But there’s still a ton of essence serum left on the mask. It’ll dry up and fall off by itself before you even wake up to visit the washroom. Forget it, to be fair, you shall have one too,” said An Xiaoning as she tugged on the edges of the mask to adjust it.

“No,” he refused.

“You have to.” She sat upright to get him a sheet and continued, “I bet Gu Beicheng applies a sheet of facial mask on his face every single night. How could he have such great skin otherwise? Do you want to lose out to him?”

“Hmph, my complexion is far better than his even without applying facial masks. It’s au naturale !” He reached his hand out and said, “Give it to me.”

“Great, come let your wife make you beautiful,” said An Xiaoning with a sheepish smile, handing him the sheet of facial mask.

Jin Qingyan removed the facial mask from the packaging and placed it over his face. Noticing that he was going to dispose of the packaging, An Xiaoning interjected, “There’s still a lot of essence serum in there! Give it to me.”

She then squeezed the essence serum out of the packaging. Looking at the white, thick, and sticky substance on her palm, Jin Qingyan jested teasingly, seemingly having something up his sleeve, “That really looks like something that comes out of me.”

“Go to hell… the fluid of yours can’t be applied on my face,” An Xiaoning retorted.

“Why not? It can be, as long as you’re willing to let it.”

“Can it whiten and moisturize my skin?”

“You won’t know if you don’t try. Though I’m not sure if it has whitening and moisturizing effects, one thing I’m very certain of is that it can create humans. That’s something far greater than your essence serum.”

Speechless, An Xiaoning began to rub the serum all over her neck and laid down again after it had been absorbed by her skin. “Oh, by the way, I have something to ask you. What kind of a person is Ye Xiaotian?” she asked.

“A looney.”

What a comment that was…

“What do you mean?” she continued to ask.

“Don’t be fooled by that nickname of his, ‘Leech,’ he’s just defamed and derogated by the media. He’s way more cunning and sly compared to his father. Why’d you ask all of a sudden?” answered Jin Qingyan, as he cast her an apprehensive look.

“When Yangyang and I went for hotpot this evening, we happened to see Sun Weiwei giving Mo Li a hard time. From the way Sun Weiwei behaved and from what she said, it seemed to be because of Ye Xiaotian. I sent Mo Li back to her house in Ming Yuan Estate, and she also told me along the journey that Ye Xiaotian is more than meets the eye.”

“That silly girl. She’s stuck in a complicated situation, even Tianze has a hard time trying to get her out of his control,” explained Jin Qingyan.

“From what you said, he’s indeed no ordinary person.”

“Whoever he is, it’s none of my business, as long as he doesn’t lay his hands on anyone I care about.”

An Xiaoning was at a loss for words. Neither did she wish to know who he was referring to as “anyone he cares about.” Thus, she closed her eyes and fell asleep quickly.

The sky began to pour in the middle of the night.

It was raining cats and dogs by daybreak. Jin Qingyan had already left for the office by the time An Xiaoning woke up.

The gloomy skies made the room appear even dimmer.

An Xiaoning’s mood seemed to be mysteriously affected by the weather.

She was overwhelmed with anxiety after breakfast, as she felt a strange omen that it would be a day of misfortune.

Thus, she gave Mei Yangyang a call to inform her that she would not be heading to the store that day and remained alone at home.

Seated on the bed, she took out the book given to her by the old Mr. Gu and began reading it from the first page. However, she was not just reading the words on the book but was also reading between the lines and had remembered them deeply in her heart. Hence, she read at an exceptionally slow pace.

For the entire morning, she had only covered a few pages. However, she had already memorized the content on the pages.

Despite having watched a movie and read the book about life’s awakenings, she could not help but still feel overwhelmed by the growing worry and anxiety.

It seemed like some sort of a premonition that something ominous was about to happen.

Fortunately, she had remained at home for the entire morning and afternoon and did not plan on going out in the evening. She hoped dearly for the nagging feeling in her heart to go away soon. For a psychic like her, it was not a good sign to be sensing such feelings.

It was past six o’clock in the evening, and the rain had not stopped pouring. Not only were there no signs of it dissipating, but it also seemed to be getting heavier — the skies had turned dark and gloomy, almost pitch black.

An Xiaoning gave Mei Yangyang another call to ask her to go home early and to be careful on the road since it was pouring heavily.

Just as she ended the call, she received a text from Jin Qingyan.

It was unusual of him to be sending her a text message, for he would usually give her a call instead. An Xiaoning began to read the content of the text message, which said: ” I’m discussing something with another businessman in Room No. 6 of XX Teahouse. It’s inconvenient for me to give you a call. Make your way here. 

An Xiaoning took another look at the sender ID. It was indeed a text from him. Puzzled, she began to wonder what matters he was discussing about that he’d need her to make a trip there.

Could it be that he had wanted her to tell the fortune of the businessman he was with?

Apart from that possibility, she could not come up with any other reason he would have wanted her to be there.

“Young Madam, it’s time for dinner.”

An Xiaoning got out of bed and answered, “Auntie Chen, Qingyan wants me to go look for him now, I’ll have it when I get back.”

“Alright, I’ll keep your food warm in the cooker.”

She put on her coat and made her way to the place reluctantly. The sky had already turned pitch dark. The rain was crashing down, along with strong gusts of wind.

However, she still decided to drive there.

Having arrived at the address he had mentioned in the text message, An Xiaoning parked the car along the entrance of the teahouse and alighted, her phone and an umbrella in her hand.

She folded the umbrella when she reached the door and entered the teahouse. “May I know where Room 6 is?” she asked.

“Walk straight inside and turn left. It’s the third room from the front.”

“Thank you.” She proceeded as instructed and gave the door a knock the moment she saw the sign on the door.

An unfamiliar-looking man answered the door and said, “Please enter. Mr. Jin is inside.”

She led the way and entered the room. To her surprise, the door was locked behind her as soon as she entered. An Xiaoning scanned the room for Jin Qingyan, but he was nowhere in sight.